Ed Woodward, a name synonymous to Manchester United over the past seven years for a plethora of all the wrong reasons to those other than the ones he serves. The accountant turned ommercial director turned CEO has this weekend has faced potent verbal attacks by the Old Trafford faithful during a game, in which, saw his side comfortably sweeping bottom of the table, Norwich, aside during a 4-0 win.
Whilst the manner or tastefulness of the chants can be put into question, the sheer passion and ultimately exhaustion of what Woodward’s management of the club over recent years has fuelled the chants to the utmost extent. The Woodward story may have been done to death now but, as I’m sure other fans will share, there is a compelling feeling to continue to reiterate the same points until voices are heard and changes occur.
There have always been two personas Woodward has embodied. First, the commercial genius, the man who pulled off the £700 million-plus adidas deal, the £450 million Chevrolet deal and signing of players for their commercial appeal, e.g. for the purposes of selling shirts. The second (and most apparent right now if comparing the two) the inept, inexperienced and careless sporting director.
The imbalance of the financial/commercial success of United as a global brand compared to the inability to deliver a footballing strategy clearly highlights what is being prioritised at the club. This is then smoke-screened behind quotes such as “the progress we made on the business side underpins the continued investment in the football side” following the announcement of record revenue figures of £627m.
Woodward has long been safe behind his figures, his P&L and the fact he’s lining the pockets of the owners throughout his tenure as CEO. It’s been a scapegoat or a way to potentially justify the poor management of how the footballing side of the club has been run. Earlier this year, Chevrolet announced that there will be no renewal of their sponsorship following its expiration in 2021. Speculation around this is rife, while this theory could be completely dismissed very quickly, there is an argument to suggest that at the time this deal was set up, Manchester United as a brand was still an incredibly attractive, low risk/high gain partnership. That quite possibly the appeal of partnering with the club essentially sells itself & that when in negotiations with Chevrolet, Woodward and those around him were already in a fortuitous position.
Contrast that to the current state of play. It would be incorrect to suggest that United are an unattractive proposition. That would be untrue. There is, however, the argument to suggest that the club won’t have the same appeal to draw in or retain such higher-value partnerships. This could equally be said the same for the footballing side, often failing in recent times to be as successful or dominant in the transfer market as in times gone by. Of course, the inflated value of players in today’s market is factored, but the lack of top-class talent at United currently may well be the reason that the post-Ferguson era has seen more middle-tier than the elite of the world come into the club.
The diminishing identity of the footballing side, married with no experienced Director of Football and a poor or non-existent transfer policy point solely to the board of directors and Woodward. It is for this reason the fans have had enough and equally create a need to act out publicly against the club’s hierarchy.
In life people often say things they don’t mean, particularly in high passion and delicate situations. Whilst some of what was said by the fans may have been an over-exaggeration or hyperbole, the wider message that surrounds it rings true, loud and clear. A club steeped in history, woven into the very fabrics of footballing culture has been taken advantage of for too long & the many who hold the club dear will no longer stand for it.
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